Program Description


During your first year you will join one of several small groups of other first year students and faculty members. This first year group will be your ‘home’ until you join a degree-granting program at the end of the second semester. Your group will meet regularly in an informal course setting to develop critical thinking skills and on other professional skills relating to scientific communication such as writing and speaking. You will also have opportunities to get to know your peers outside of your small group through BBSP-wide activities..


The BBSP has no required courses. You have the freedom to explore courses from different departments if you choose, but nothing prevents you from focusing on one specific program’s requirements right away. Many first-year courses satisfy degree requirements for several programs. A list of courses appropriate for first year graduate students and links to course requirements for each of the participating programs are available here. Once you join a particular PhD program you may need to complete additional coursework in your second year, but you should be able to finish all coursework by the end of your second year.


BBSP students must complete three eleven-week lab rotations during the first year. You can choose from over 300 laboratories in any of the 14 participating PhD programs. At the end of the first year students choose their thesis lab from one of their lab rotations and typically matriculate into a PhD program with which their thesis advisor is affiliated.


The faculty leading your group will also serve as your academic advisors during your first year. Your advisors and the PhD program directors will work with you to help you select the appropriate course work and lab rotations based on your interests and your goals. Former BBSP students will also serve as peer mentors for first year students. They will be available to talk about rotations, program requirements, graduate student life and other issues that are important to you.

After the BBSP Year

Once you choose a thesis lab you will leave BBSP and join a PhD program. You will then be required to complete the coursework and degree requirements for that particular department or curriculum. The amount of coursework required varies among programs, but the basic degree requirements are usually the same: a written qualifying exam, a thesis proposal, yearly committee meetings and a written thesis/oral defense.

Financial Support

As a student at UNC, you will be provided a competitive stipend, and are guaranteed support throughout your graduate career at as long as you remain in good academic standing. The stipend for the 2017-2018 academic year will be $30,000. Your tuition, fees, and health insurance will also be paid.